In 1974 when my father Ron took delivery of his Honda TL 125 from John Taylor Motorcycles in Stoke, it was quite a time for change at the Hulme household. On further inspection I quite understood why he was so attracted to the little Honda as the quality of components was second to none. Power and performance wise, however, it was not anywhere near as good as the Spanish opposition. In six months it was traded in at MacDonald Motorcycles for, you can guess, a Bultaco. The Honda trials success story continued with Sammy Miller at the helm. He sponsored a trials team on the converted TL 125cc machines. The Sammy Miller Hondas featured the Hi-Boy frame and various upgrade parts. These were ridden with moderate success until the full factory machines arrived from Japan. Miller guided them to their first British title with Rob Shepherd in 1977. Wind the clock forward to 2018 and my good friend in Italy Justyn Norek contacted me to say that he had a very old Miller 125cc Honda to test, what did I think? My answer was a definite Yes Please! It opened the door for this article, which takes us back to the early days of our sister publication
As an introduction to the Justyn Norek story, we take a quick look back at a test we carried out in 2008 on the Sammy Miller Products Honda TL 150cc produced by Richard Jordan. With the great man Miller moving his interests to his superb museum he sold the Sammy Miller Products business to Jordan. Looking at new ideas he had reproduced the frame kits that Miller had first produced in 1974–1975.
As an introduction to the growing classic trials scene the standard Honda TL 125 could still be found for a reasonable amount of money so why not reproduce the frame kits? In 2008, and with all the current market interest in the twin-shock trials machines, especially the clubman wanting a fun day out, it would possibly be a good idea to re-market the Honda TL but with the Hi-Boy frame and all the associated accessories made available.
Richard contacted Sammy Miller to see if the old frame jig was still available. After a while, Sammy came back on the phone to report that all was well and he could supply the relevant parts of the original jig to reproduce the frame. They still required a base-point to start the project, and he went about trying to find original Miller HI-Boy Honda trials conversion. He found one of the people who worked on the frames, an ex-Rickman Engineering employee, who was more than happy to assist with the new one. With many advances in engineering taking place over the years since the first frame kits were first constructed it was decided to apply these to the new frame. A small production run was carried out and they all pretty much sold before they were finished — we think around 30 in total.
At the time Richard had Mick Andrews assisting him with his new Honda and Mick had a ride in the 2008 Nostalgia Trial on the new 150cc Hi-Boy Honda. Mick Andrews: “For me, this is an ideal way to get you into classic trials. The machine is not aggressive, just very easy to ride. No power surge although the engine does have more ‘go’ than I first thought it would have. Suspension is down to individual requirements, and the only complaint I have is it seems a little stiff on the rear suspension.
"I find it so easy to ride, the engine is so flexible, which makes for a good beginner machine although I think a competent rider would surprise many on the Miller Honda”.
Riding as a guest, Mick would not qualify for any awards but it did give him the option to try the expert route on the dreaded section fifteen, the steep hill climb. The clubman route veered off before the steepest part of the climb and Mick initially tried this in bottom gear, expecting the engine to run out of power, but he was pleasantly surprised as he got to the top with the aid of a quick dab. Never one to be beaten, he quickly shot down to the bottom of the section for another go but this time in second gear.
It was a pleasure to watch the old master at work as he forced the little 150cc machine to the top of the climb on sheer riding ability; the nickname ‘Magical’ was very evident! As Mick originally explained, this machine is ideal for the fun factor sometimes missing in modern trials. If you know where there is an old Honda TL 125cc purchase it and start enjoying your trialling!